OXITEMS: RSS for news and events

1. Newsfeeds

  • Many of us produce bits of information for consumption in various ways. The commonest way to do this is an RSS newsfeed.
  • You'll recognize a site with news feeds, as they commonly use one of , and . If you hover over them your browser will tell you the URL of the newsfeed.
  • If you click on the icon, you will get the list of items. Sometimes, this is displayed nicely; sometimes it is displayed as a page of markup (in an XML language).
  • Examples: http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ and http://news.bbc.co.uk

2. Reading newsfeeds

There are many kinds of newsfeed readers:
  • There are web sites where you can subscribe to newsfeeds, e.g., Google, Bloglines, Yahoo! An example is: http://www.igoogle.com
  • Most web browsers now allow you to establish a bookmark to the URL of a newsfeed.
  • Many email clients allow you to get the items of a newsfeed delivered into the email client like ordinary messages.
  • You can install a feedreader program, e.g., Awasu, NewsGator, NewzCrawler
  • If you know how to create resources in WebLearn, you can create one that is a news feed display.
  • If you know how to create web pages, you could provide one that displays the contents of a newsfeed.


  • OXITEMS is a system, developed by OUCS, for members of the University to create newsfeeds.
  • Each department/college can create newsfeeds, and add items to those newsfeeds.
  • These newsfeeds are then available for others to read, e.g., for people to access on their Google home page or web page owners to include in their web pages.

4. Why use OXITEMS rather than build your own system?

  • We sort out the authentication (using WebAuth) and authorisation (using registration database) for you
  • We take care of generating the various flavours of RSS, Atom etc, as well as other output formats (eg iCal)
  • We can merge many newsfeeds centrally to produce unified lists
  • We can link news items advertising events to geolinking data
  • The university podcasting channel will only take material from OXITEMS
  • Not everyone has the expertise or available servers

5. OXITEMS: Overview

There are two steps to providing an OXITEMS newsfeed:
  • create a newsfeed;
  • add items to this newsfeed.
Then you can access the feed in a variety of formats via consistent URLs

A newsfeed can be created by someone that OXITEMS has been told is the OXITEMS administrator for the unit.

Automatically, the main ITSS person of a unit is an OXITEMS administrator for that unit. They can add others, and set up authors who can add items

6. OXITEMS: Adding an item

To add an item to an OXITEMS newsfeed,

7. Experimenting with OXITEMS

  • There are newsfeeds (the sandbox newsfeeds) to which anyone at the University can add items. These are areas where you can experiment.
  • However, these newsfeeds are not a permanent area for items: the items of these newsfeeds will be removed regularly.
  • One of the sandbox newsfeeds has the rather strange name: running/ordinary-sandbox

8. OXITEMS: Using the sandbox newsfeed

9. Examples of OXITEMS being used

10. Event items

  • Besides ordinary newsfeeds, OXITEMS has eventsnewsfeeds that are better at handling events.
  • If you add an item to an events newsfeed, OXITEMS will ask you for lots of information about the event.
  • Such as the date, time, location, title, ...
  • An example of an events newsfeed is shown at: http://www.bioch.ox.ac.uk/aspsite/index.asp?sectionid=seminars
  • The iCalendar link enables people to add details of the event to their favourite calendaring program.


As a companion project, OUCS also manages OXPOINTS, which aims to provide full and accurate geolinking information for the University of Oxford. From a single source, we generate
  • KML files for use with Google Maps or Google Earth
  • JavaScript maps (using the Google Maps API) for embedding in web pages
  • location data for OXITEMS events newsfeeds
Details at http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/oxpoints/

You can see OXPOINTS in action at eg http://www.ox.ac.uk/colleges/map_of_the_colleges_and_halls/index.html

12. Podcasting newsfeeds

Besides ordinary newsfeeds and events newsfeeds, OXITEMS has podcastingnewsfeeds.
  • Each item of a podcasting newsfeed has a link to a media file (such as an MP3 file).
  • So you might create a podcasting newsfeed for thisterm's research seminars.
  • In 2008, the the University joined Apple's iTunesU, and we have a major project to disseminate material using podcasting.
  • So it is asking each department/college to bundle up media files into one or more OXITEMS newsfeeds.

13. Conclusions

  • If you currently provide news/events by editing web pages, then this system is a lot easier to use as the information is provided by filling in a form.
  • It is possible to allocate other people to enter items of news/events.
  • Although items expire, they are still retained: so you have a record of what's happening in your department/college.
  • By providing a newsfeed, you are allowing people to choose how they get the information.

14. More information